On June 11, on the 1st Sunday after Pentecost the Church honored All the Saints who ever pleased the Lord by their holy lives. On this day Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. Following the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily in English:
“Today’s 1st Sunday after Pentecost is dedicated to all the Saints. It is almost the end of our continuous celebration of the history of salvation. Thus, today’s feast is the result of all that has gone before it. The purpose of all the events in Christ’s life is to make Saints. That is the purpose of the Church, to make people holy. Today’s holy day is the feast of the identity of the Church, of Her sacred personality. For a Church that does not make Saints is not a Church, it is merely an institution which abuses the word “Church”.”
”What is a Saint? We should understand that Saints are not born, they are made. They don’t come from heaven but they grow here on earth to be in heaven. We are all born potentially to become Saints. The only difference between ourselves who are not Saints and the Saints, is that they are people who are continually picking themselves up after sinning, continually repenting until they attain holiness, while we give up.”
”We should also say that there are different kinds of Saints. For instance, there are Martyrs, the Saints who sacrificed their lives for Christ. Today we commemorate Venerable Martyr Theodosia who was an ascetic person, a nun but who had to become a Martyr for Christ. Speaking of Martyrs, we may say that some of them, unlike today’s celebrated Theodosia, led very bad lives but then, when it came to the ultimate sacrifice, they found Faith in themselves, sufficient for them to prefer to confess Christ rather than live, and so sacrificed everything for Christ. We recognize their sacrifice and honor it.”
“However, in our time, in our land, it would seem that we are not called to be Martyrs, but Confessors. This is another kind of Saints. These are the people who suppose to live a Christian life, to be righteous, and to be an example for others. And at the time of persecutions they should be ready to become Martyrs. They should openly confess the Lord Jesus Christ. Another Saint whom the Church commemorates today is St. Luke of Simferopol whose icon is placed in the middle of the church today. He was a Confessor. He was ready to die for Christ but Divine Providence preserved him alive in persecutions. To that kind of holiness we are called in our times when the society becomes more and more remote from the Christian faith and Christian ideals. Our present day rulers are very often like pagan rulers of Rome. They don’t care about faith but wish to chase the faith out of the society. Thus we should become ready to confess Christ before them.”
“Today we should also say that characteristics of the Saints are also those of the Church. At every Liturgy and at morning prayers we sing and read the Creed, in which we confess that we believe in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. These words are also words that define the Saints.”
”The Saints are One because they are all together. In today’s Gospel, our Lord speaks of those who have followed Him who will judge the twelve tribes of Israel seated on the twelve thrones around Him. The Saints are One, they are united. The Saints are also obviously holy because the word “Saint” means holy.”
“The Saints are also Catholic. This word does not mean Roman Catholic. We mean “Catholic” in the original sense of the word. It means the same in all places and at all times. As I recently visited Mt. Athos, I learned that the main church of each monastery there is called the “katholikon” which is the gathering church. In Russian or Slavonic we say “sobor”. Thus in the Slavonic text of the Creed we call the Church “sobornaia”. In Greek it’s “katholiki”, Catholic. Today we commemorate all the Saints of all countries and of all centuries and of all backgrounds. We recall Saints of all ages, of all nationalities, men, women and children, the poor and the rich, the old and the young, the healthy and the sick. They all confessed the same Orthodox faith. The Saints are universal in time and space; they are “Catholic”, gathered together from everywhere. Finally, the Saints are Apostolic, for they share in the same faith and tradition as the Apostles.”’
”We may conclude our reflection upon the Saints by listening and fulfilling the command of the Holy Apostle Paul who is uttering to us the following words of today’s Epistle reading, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” (Heb. 12, 2).
After the Liturgy Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company at the coffee hour.